Loveland, Colo.-based Lightning eMotors hosted an open house June 17 to show off their newly expanded facility, offer tours for an inside peek at production process, and allow customers, fleet managers, government officials, and journalists, to ride and drive their all-electric medium-duty commercial vehicles.
Since the last Lightning Day in 2019, the company has grown in the market, combined with GigCapital3 and went public, expanded their factory, and moved into new niches.
Lightning Electrifies Fleets
If you haven’t heard of Lightning eMotors yet, the company serves a growing market of forward-thinking commercial fleets looking to achieve sustainability goals with zero-emission battery-electric vans, trucks, and buses from manufacturers such as Ford and GM.
Lightning works with medium-duty Class 3 cargo and passenger vans, Class 4 and 5 cargo vans and shuttle buses, Class 6 work trucks, school buses, Class 7 city buses, and Class A motorcoaches. They do this by converting chasses and powertrains from the major manufacturers to electric.
The company also designs and manufactures a suite of control software, telematics, analytics, and charging solutions, while offering driver training.
According to a May 17 earnings report, Lightning sold 31 purpose-built, commercial vehicles in Q1 2021, which included shuttles buses, delivery vehicles, refrigerated trucks, ambulances and RVs, for DHL Express, Fluid Truck, ABC Companies, Meals on Wheels and more. The company’s forecast is 500 vehicles by the end of the year.
Behind the Wheel
Lightning Day put on full display the benefits and capabilities of going electric, allowing visitors to get behind the wheel and experience the difference. Not only was the drive smooth, quiet, and powerful — without the sound, smell, or sight of a gas plume — but the feeling of regenerative braking kicking in was a reminder that the vehicle’s battery was doing its job while saving wasted energy, reducing idling, and charging the battery.
Tim Reeser, CEO and Lightning eMotors co-founder, said the company was built with the vocational vehicle in mind and specializes in the custom environment. He believes there is no limit to the potential scalability of what they do. For instance, he referenced a custom-build for a paper shredding truck because none existed previously.
Looking forward, Lightning intends to maintain premium pricing while expanding volume.
Lightning leadership also shared insights into the electric market, noting that EVs perform best in cities, as the stop-and-go nature of the drive provides plenty of opportunity for the battery to charge itself throughout the drive. This, of course, equates to valuable fuel savings for fleet managers and makes the vehicles even more attractive for last-mile deliveries.
“The EV revolution is here, and it’s not just about cars or pickup trucks,” Chief Revenue Officer Kash Sethi said in a release. “We are glad to see EVs gain momentum across all segments of transportation – from transit buses to delivery trucks, from school buses to ambulances.”
Reeser also mentioned a growing interest in recreational vehicle (RV) electrification. But the growth opportunities he’s most attuned to are in utility trucks and school buses.
Lightning is working on a universal powertrain that would fit multiple OEM’s vehicles.
“I’ve never been a fan of building an electric vehicle just for carbon offset,” Reeser stated. “Sustainability is a key aspect of our business, but I don’t want it to be the only reason people buy our product. I want them to buy because it’s fundamentally a better vehicle.”
While passenger cars have already seen an uptick in interest in the last few years, larger vehicles have been slower to go electric. Reeser said he believes the interest has always been there, but now that costs are going down as volume is going up —especially in the last year alone — adoption is finally gaining momentum as ROI has become proven. “I believe we’ve hit the inflection point and growth will be quick,” Reeser said.
Reeser predicts 40% of all commercial vehicles will be electric in three years. Lightning eMotors is scaling and preparing for that now.